All-Ireland Scholarships make a real difference for New Irish students
2017-12-15 17:20:05 -

By Michaela Althouse

Opportunity knocked on the door of Emad Alsaleh, allowing the Longford student the chance to pursue his education without the sometimes enormous costs.


Alsaleh is one of 125 recipients of the 2017 All-Ireland Scholarships, sponsored by Limerick racehorse owner JP McManus and awarded to students across the Republic and Northern Ireland. 


For Alsaleh, it means €6,750 to put towards his pharmacy degree at Trinity College Dublin, where he is a fresher.


“In general I always wanted to help people,” says Alsaleh about his chosen subject. “I always admired those who can offer so much advice like when I’m in the pharmacy or at the doctor. You can just ask them questions about anything.”


The All-Ireland Scholarships are given to high-achieving students to provide financial assistance for their education, administered by the Department of Education and Skills. 


Now in their 10th year, the programme has provided over €32 million, funding some 1,300 students over the last decade. 


On 25 November, the University of Limerick hosted this year’s All-Ireland Scholarships award ceremony, where Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Minister of State for Higher Education, made the presentations and President Michael D Higgins made a special guest appearance. Out of 100 students chosen across the Republic of Ireland for this year’s scholarships, 20 come from migrant backgrounds,


Among them on the night was Alsaleh, 18, who arrived in Ireland from Libya at just 12 months of age, accompanying his father who was studying in graduate school.


Alsaleh says he returns to his home country every so often and keeps in contact with his family there, emphasising the current political situation in Libya has only made him more grateful about his success.


The scholarship was a surprise for Alsaleh, who qualified automatically after applying for a Leaving Certificate fee exemption.


“I just woke up in the morning and I saw this letter in my post,” he says. “At first I didn’t believe it.”


Alsaleh says the scholarship has enabled him to thrive in his schooling. He put the money towards textbooks, which he had difficulty buying before, and it allows him to live in Dublin instead of commuting from Longford. Living in the city and having money left over to socialise also provides him with a better experience of college life.


“The amount of money your parents have shouldn’t ever decide whether or not you should go to college,” he says. “This thing is such a really great help and I’m really grateful for it.”


Alsaleh feels very passionate about the idea that no one should let their financial status prevent them from succeeding in further education, and that hard work and asking for help pays off in the end. 


The scholarship, he believes, is particularly important because it recognises students that are less advantaged. Moreover, he is convinced that his success can motivate others in his county. Upon the news of his achievement, Alsaleh received multiple messages from other students inspired to work for the same.


“Life presents you with gifts,” he says, “and you should never give up.”


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